Archive for June, 2011

The Bystander Effect

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It was 3:00 A.M. on March 13, 1964. A bar manager by the name of Kitty was returning to her home in Long Island after getting off work. As she was walking to her apartment she was assaulted and stabbed twice in the back. In agony, she began to scream for help. Slowly, lights started to come to life in surrounding apartments. The attacker, sensing that he might be identified, fled the scene.

Kitty hobbled a little closer to her apartment door and collapsed. Later the attacker returned and finished the job. Again, she screamed and pleaded for help. Lights lit windows. People looked on in horror. At least a dozen people heard the screams for help. How many people called the police? Not a single phone call came through to the police that night. Why? Are people that cold hearted? Absolutely not. Each assumed that someone else would called the police or that someone else was better qualified to help.

In social psychology this is known as the bystander effect. Is it possible that this effect permeates our own lives at times? We see a need, but we assume someone else will meet it. We sit in church and hear opportunities to serve, and we look around thinking there are plenty of people to meet this need so we do nothing.We hear a plea that someone needs help and we instantly think there is someone more qualified to assist. We look upon a position that needs to be filled and think someone else will step up and do a better job. The bystander effect probably plays a part in our lives more than we even realize.

Instead of waiting on someone else when we see a need can we just respond? How different would things look if we just took action? Who knows what hangs in the balance? We can make a difference. Don’t wait. Take action.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

Solving The World’s Problems…One Bath At A Time.

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Here recently, Hayden’s bath time has become a time where Hayden and I can really enjoy playing together. He has a blast in the bath and I just enjoy watching him play. The routine has become as follows: Play with Hayden in bath, soak in Bath myself, rinse off with the shower sprayer. I have to say, it is a pretty good routine. I have probably taken more baths (as opposed to showers, didn’t want you thinking I don’t bath) this week than I have in the past 15 years.

For as long as I can remember, there are two areas that are more productive for me when it comes to thinking, reflecting, praying, and solving problems. The first is when I am riding the lawn mower. I can get some serious thinking done while I am mowing. I am knocking down grass and at the same time, thinking about everything under the Sun (which is pretty easy because the Sun definitely makes it’s presence known these days). My second preferred thinking spot is in the shower (and here recently soaking for a few minutes in the tub).

Thinking about this I get a mental picture of bathtubs sitting in the oval office or the war room and important decisions being made while everyone is soaking or perhaps a fortune 500 company having a board meeting while they all ride on lawn mowers.

We all have our thinking places. The shower/tub and the lawn mower give me the perfect time to settle my mind and reflect on my life, where things are headed, how I stand relationally with God and those around me. I have learned that bed is a bad place to do this because you can quickly condition yourself to stay awake (losing those precious 5-7 hours of sleep) recounting your fears and anxieties. I prefer to leave my worries in the tub after talking to God and let them spiral in counter-clockwise fashion (it spirals the same in the southern hemisphere, don’t by into the clockwise myth) down the drain.

So, where do you do your thinking? I am really curious to know. Some people think in strange places.

Tomorrow morning I am posting on seeing and then acting. Stay tuned.

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

Lying, Lewdness, and Lynching.

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Lying, lewdness, and lynching. What do these three words have in common? They are all sins. Let’s just call them Satan’s trifecta. Ever told a lie? I can honestly say, I have never told a lie. OK, that was a lie. I have let them go before, big ones and small ones. Although, I have never understood why people try to add size or even color to lying. “It was just a small lie or it was just a white lie.” Color and/or size do not retract from the fact that you just lied.

What about being lewd? Have you ever been a lewd dude? Lewdness can mean lusting or just being downright vulgar. I wish I could say that I was exempt here also, but again, I am guilty.

That brings us to lynching. Hopefully, we can all stop here. If you have in fact killed someone before, recently or in years past, don’t worry about reading my blog. I am scared I might possibly offend and that my writing career will be short lived.

You are probably wondering why I am talking about this dirty triad of ungodliness. The way I see it, we tend to minimize certain sins due to the fact that we place such a high degree of sinfulness on others. The fact is, sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. Evil is evil. We need not downplay our sin because we feel they don’t stack up to the sin’s of others. It is so easy to kind of gloss over our sins by comparing them to things like adultery, murder, or molestation.

This thought came crashing down on me recently. When I was working on my undergraduate degree there was a professor that I held in high esteem. I took several of his classes and found him enjoyable to be around. He had a beautiful family, a wonderful job and was very active in his church. Fast forward about eight years. This same professor was recently imprisoned due to charges of child pornography. I won’t lie, I was both shocked and devastated. I thought he was “above doing something like that.” “That is disgusting” I thought. “I am so glad I am not like that. Sure, I might lie, gossip, or be greedy, but I would never do something like that.”

The problem is, sin is sin. One lie will keep us apart from Christ just as quick as child pornography will. Now, I am not saying sins all have the same consequences. Clearly our wrong doings set us up to pay a varied degree of consequences. Spending years in prison versus confessing a lie to someone is radically different. The bottom line is, one shortcoming will keep us away from God as quick as any other.

Lets keep this in mind. We can’t get caught playing comparisons. We must not minimize our sins or edify ourselves because we feel as though we aren’t as bad as the next guy. In reality, we need a savior just as bad as he does. Whether we are ten miles off shore without a life vest or just 200 feet, we are still drowning. We cannot allow ourselves to ever think we are above a certain sin. We are just as susceptible as anyone else. Let’s pay attention to what is going on in our heart. The small things tend to nest in in our hearts and grow larger until they are out of control.

Tell us about it: What sins do you think we tend to ignore or write off because they don’t seem as bad as some of the other ones?

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

The King In I

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As that great poet Tom Petty once sang, “It’s good to be king and have your own way. Get a feeling of peace at the end of the day.” It does, indeed, feel good to be king, but that feeling is short lived. Let me just give full disclosure here, I have a tendency to be selfish. Maybe you can relate to that, I hope not though. Selfishness is a cheap seductress, promising pleasure and delivering only distance in relationships and a hollowness inside. Nothing will show you how selfish you are than being married and having children. These relationships have forced me to realize how much my first inclination is to think about me. How my first thought in majority of situations is “what can I do to expand the empire that is Josh.” At times I feel like there is a voice in my brain that says, “expand or die. Our borders must expand.” I have come to despise that voice.

I don’t believe anyone intentionally wants to be selfish, or at least most don’t. Selfishness is so insidious, often it lies just under the surface. I can relate to the Apostle Paul when he says, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” No matter how much I realize I do not want to be a selfish person, it seems to just spew out of me like a diet coke jam packed with Mentos. This is not something I celebrate saying.

So what do we do? How do we overcome the selfishness inside? How do we kill the king? How do we take our focus off of ourselves and our own kingdom? We make a choice to become a servant. Serving others does not come naturally to me while serving myself is second nature. I have learned, and am in the process of becoming better at it, that to minimize my tendency to be selfish I have to make a conscious choice to serve. I have to make myself write a check when I see a need. Give my time even when I am exhausted and want to rest. Not worry so much about my pocket book and put relationships above money. Realize that material things are not more important than people. Give others my undivided attention, even when my to do list seems astronomical. Change a poopy diaper when it would be just as easy to let my wife do it.

I wish at times we could just push a button and instantly change the things we don’t like about ourselves, but it doesn’t work that way. We change as we force ourselves to do the things that don’t come naturally until it starts to become easier. It is sort of like when you first start working out. When you have extra around your midsection and the only workout you ever do is bringing hand to face. At first, when you decide to start running a few miles it is extremely difficult, and then you adjust to the new normal. Changing those things we most dislike about ourselves can only be accomplished by forcing ourselves to exercise new muscles, such as serving others, until we adjust to the new normal.

What say you? It is time to kill the king and replace him with a servant. Will you join me in dying to yourself?

Tell us about it: In what way do you feel you feed your inner king?

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

How Dave Ramsey Changed My Life.

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I have never been financially illiterate. My parent’s raised me with enough horse sense (why are horses the equine’s that get lumped with all the good sense?) to know better than to rack up large amounts of consumer debt on credit cards. What I didn’t know until a couple of years ago was really how to manage my finances. My financial plan went something like this. “This item cost x amount. I have x amount in my checking account. I can buy this. This item cost x amount. I do not have x amount in my checking. I cannot buy this.” This works for keeping you out of debt. The problem is I didn’t do much planning.

Then I was acquainted with Dave Ramsey. A very intelligent, although very blunt, gentleman that I feel like tells me things I should have already known but lacked the discipline, intestinal fortitude, or insight to implement. He has a habit of calling people jerks or morons, which I personally find inspiring because sometimes I am a jerk and a moron and would be thankful to have someone tell me that I am being such when I choose to be one. Anyways, Dave prompted me to start a budget. I started setting financial goals. Save this much. Pay off this loan. Give this amount. Treat myself to this. Spend this much eating food that other people cook. A revolutionary concept? Not so much. Did it revolutionize my finances? Incredibly. Instead of asking, “Do I have the money for this?” I began asking, “If I buy this, how will it effect my financial goals?”

At the beginning of every month my spouse and I would have a board meeting. Sounds all smancy huh? Like I am running some fortune 500 company. The board meetings consisted of me, Devon, and a foot long 2×4 that I wrote “the board” on (I have no idea why I do silly things like this but you can’t have a board meeting without a board and two people aren’t enough to make up a board). At these “board meetings” we would create a budget for the month in an excel spreadsheet. Every dollar got a job. We would agree to live by these terms. If one of us broke the agreement, they got beat by the board (this was “the board’s” practical side).

A good friend of mine has made this statement for years and grafted this saying to my brain, “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” Good luck getting where you want to be financially without a budget. I have learned that a budget I keep track of in my head doesn’t cut the mustard (or anything else for that matter). It has to be an actual budget that I write down and give every cent I earn a job to do.

When you see your spending on paper, you will think twice about spending it. Suddenly that new TV, ipad, movie, cheeseburger, ______(fill in the blank) isn’t as important. When you see yourself achieving goals you have set you will find that you become more motivated to work harder. Now I am not saying you shouldn’t have a 72″ TV, ipad 3, or that new living room furniture you have been wanting. I am saying, budget so you can achieve these goals guilt free and accomplish the financial goals and dreams you would like to see come to fruition.

When your finances are in order you can breathe a little easier. You can enjoy the toys you get to treat yourself too. You can relax a little more about the future. You will see decreased tension in your marriage. All of that from a budget? Yup. Try it and see.

Tell us about it: What have you learned financially that you would like to pass on to the rest of humanity?

The Sunday Time Stood Still (At Least for Me)

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I have been “leading worship” at Trout Creek Baptist Church for close to two years. It is not my calling, I am just filling a need until God sees fit to bring the full time person to take my spot. It has been a wonderful experience and it is the other people that I get to sing with that make it enjoyable and attractive to listen to.

I am far from a wonderful musician. I can play rhythm guitar with those other average rhythm guitar players, but don’t expect me to blaze out any riffs like you might hear from Slash or Zakk Wylde that will melt your face off.

One Sunday morning, which I commonly refer to as the Sunday time stood still, I had a slight mishap. We had just finished a song that ended on “Dsus”. The next song was suppose to begin in the key of “D”. Instead of changing the key, I kept playing the “Dsus”. Well, there is not a huge difference between these two chords, but there is enough difference to completely derail a song. As I began singing “Come Thou Fount” it sounded as though a tone deaf cat was being run over by a lawn mower. I can remember thinking, “you can pull this up Josh, pull up, pull up.” It didn’t happen. I crashed and burned in a blaze of glory. I thought about ending by doing the windmill. The entire congregation stopped singing. I looked to my wife for some frame of reference to only see that she has her head down. All of the other singers had just stopped. I was alone in my misery. At this point I just stopped. Done. Finished. I told everyone, “Hey, you can’t win them all. Let’s keep worshiping with a song we can all actually sing.”

In that moment, I know God looked down at me from heaven and said, “Way to go Josh. Way to totally ruin the worship service. This Sunday is done. No one will come to know the Lord and it is all your fault. Great.” Would God say that? Never. Don’t we feel that way sometimes? Often. If it isn’t perfect God can’t use it. If we aren’t perfect God can’t use us. Don’t these thoughts stroll through our mind on occasion? I have news for you. You will never be perfect. I will never be perfect. Say it with me, “We will never be perfect.” (Why do ministers always insist that people repeat stuff?)

I think sometimes our lack of perfection keeps us from doing. Maybe we hold back from serving out of fear we might mess up. Well, if you do something long enough you will mess it up. Why are you doing it? Sure, some people might think you are dumb. I could see on a few faces the Sunday time stood still that there were a few people that thought I was a complete dunce (I love that word. It ranks up there with buffoon.). The thing is, God is extremely proud of us when our hearts are serving. When we mess up serving, God doesn’t care because he sees our hearts. When you are serving you have the approval of the God who created it all. You have reached your pinnacle. Even if you have thousands of people praising you it doesn’t compare to God’s praise.

Serve. Live. Don’t take yourself too seriously. It is okay for us Christians to laugh at ourselves. You aren’t less holy if you mess up. Holy doesn’t mean being stoic. Take some chances serving. You will be glad you did.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” -I Samuel 16:7

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.

Tell us about it: What keeps you from serving?

Puke and Perspective

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Tomorrow I get the privilege of being celebrated for Father’s day. I really didn’t know what to expect. I feel like it is an elite club where you get the equivalent of a birthday present just for taking care of your child. A perk, I am all about added benefits. The real blessing though is just getting to be a dad to my son. Had someone told me three years ago that a day would come when getting puked on in the face (or worse, much worse) wouldn’t really bother me I would have given a condescending smirk to communicate the idiocy of such a comment.

Honestly, it feels slightly strange to be a dad. It is an odd assortment of emotions; I find it humbling, worrisome, exciting, humorous and curious. It is indeed a strange tale I have fallen into, to borrow from Tolkein. Devon and I are trying to enjoy each moment with Hayden for what it is, without wishing he would be at another stage. Each moment, though frustrating at times, is fun in it’s unique way.

More than anything else, fatherhood has made me appreciate and understand my dad, and God in a whole new way. So many times as a child I couldn’t understand why my dad or God did the things the way they did them. It is all about a change in perspective. Maybe sometimes, we should just trust a little more until we get the perspective we need, if it ever comes.We can rest in the knowledge that there is someone that transcends us who has a Father’s heart and loves His children.

Happy Fathers day to all the men in this elitist club known as Dads. Here is to many more years of being puked on, cleaning up, wiping tears, and calming fears. May your tribe increase and may you continue to gain perspective as to the love of the Father.

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.

Guess who’s back (echo echo echo)….Back Again

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Ok, so here is the deal. Writing is something that I have always been interested in and wanted to explore in greater detail. I have started blogs before. I started this one last year, made a few clever (in my own mind) posts and then that was that. I wanted to keep writing, but life got in the way. I would find myself saying, “I will get to writing when things slow down.” I have now decided that things don’t slow down, short of dying, and I have no intention of dying for at least another 50-60 years. I do hope I die before my wife, but that is a whole separate issue. Recently I read a tweet by Jon Acuff (if you don’t know who that is you really should so go check him out http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/) that said, “If I wrote only when I felt like it I would never write.” Thanks Jon, point well taken. So I have decided to force myself to write even when I can think of a laundry list of other things that I could be doing.

In the past, I had generally tried to keep most of my post related to life, Christianity, and theology. These topics will still be examined pretty heavily, but I have decided that no topic is off limits. I hope this doesn’t create a problem for my fan base, which at the moment probably consists anywhere of 1-3 people (Mom…Devon….you reading this?). So, some of my posts might interest you, some may not, but I thank you for stopping by from time to time to see what kind of musings my brain is squeezing out. While I would love it if someone out there in the blogosphere actually enjoyed my writing, the main intent is for me to get better at this craft and put on paper what I am learning

This past week I have been on vacation. I didn’t travel anywhere or do anything of special significance. I just stayed home and got caught up on some stuff I have been needing/wanting to do and spend time with my family and some friends. During the past week I have watched about ten movies and read close to three books. This, my friends, is what I call glorious. My addiction for the week has been reading Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff and listening the the new album by Owl City All Things Bright and Beautiful, which is the musical equivalent of Crack Cocaine.

So there it is. My pledge to do more writing…more varied writing. If I do not at least post a few times each month you have the write (pun, not typo, you have to clarify these things) to SPAM my inbox with hate mail. I encourage it. Thanks for letting me bring this mini update as well.

Walk Good. Live Wise. Be Blessed.

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